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A sign for Interstate 81 sits under an overpass in Syracuse, N.Y. City officials and residents are debating what to do about an aging stretch of the highway that cuts through the city. Photo: Zack Seward
A sign for Interstate 81 sits under an overpass in Syracuse, N.Y. City officials and residents are debating what to do about an aging stretch of the highway that cuts through the city. Photo: Zack Seward

Group wants I-81 decision to focus on moving people, not just cars

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Another group has formed to weigh in on the future of Interstate 81's path through downtown Syracuse. This one calls for a focus on moving people, not cars.

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Reported by

Ryan Delaney
Reporter, The Innovation Trail

 The elevated stretch of I-81 through downtown Syracuse is nearing the end of its 50 year lifespan. Area residents are entwined in a lengthy debate over its second life, which largely boils down to rebuild or reroute.

A new coalition of community activists is getting involved in the debate, calling for more emphasis on public transportation alternatives.

Barry Lentz with the group Moving People Coalition says they’re not focused on one particular solution. “The issue is, can we come together as a people and identify those critical social justice issues that need to guide the process, regardless of what the alternative is.”

The group says more public transit will improve quality of life and the environment in the community.

Karen Gillette is disabled and relies on public transportation. “We need access to work and recreation in Syracuse,” she says, “to move beyond survival.”

The state transportation department is taking its first round of public comments through January 17. A final decision on I-81’s future isn’t expected for three more years.

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